The first time I fished at Fern Valley on the Soque River, the feeling reminded me of Christmas. The fish were larger and more numerous than on other waters, palomino trout were scattered through the pools like ornaments, and we had the stream to ourselves. For me, it felt as fine as anything I could open from under the tree.
So, in a moment of genius, I decided to take my daughter and eleven-year-old grandson fishing there to kick off the holiday season. Convincing them to go took all of thirty seconds.
Fern Valley is located in the north Georgia mountains about four miles outside of Clarkesville. They offer both guided and unguided trips, but since my daughter and I together have almost ninety years of fly fishing experience, we thought we could manage.
Marty Simmons, who owns Fern Valley, met us at the lodge and gave us a quick update on the river conditions. The Soque hadn’t seen much rain for a couple months and then the previous day had a gully washer. The water was up and cloudy, or as Marty described it, close to perfect.
He also took one look at my net and told me it wasn’t big enough. So, I borrowed a larger one.
We started downstream of the lodge, wading across and fishing back into pools and runs against the far bank. Shortly after stepping in, we spooked a mink that scooted out of the river, up the bank, and off through the brush. With the water cloudy, we thought bright flies might work. My daughter started with an egg pattern and my grandson used a squirmy worm under an indicator. The fish bit both.
The sky shifted back and forth from sun to clouds as a front came through. The wind picked up and the temperatures dropped. Still, the fish continued to bite.
I was popular as the net man. My grandson kept me busy with each fish he caught. We quickly took grip and grin photos and released the fish in fine shape. His grins never diminished as the day wore on.
You can learn to fish in many ways, but some skills are best acquired by catching fish. When you try something and are rewarded, you end the day with a new skill. Sometimes, it can be as simple as recognizing a run where fish lie. Other times, it might be a presentation, a drift, or a hook set.
My grandson came home with many new experiences to build on. He got to cast to, hook, and play enough fish to build confidence; things that will go with him on future trips.
My daughter occasionally got into fish too large for the net she carried so I would scoot downstream, considerably less agile than the mink, and offer an assist. At one point, she hooked a palomino trout that I netted mostly to admire. Their beauty out of the water even surpassed that as they swam by.
Palomino trout are a cross between golden trout and rainbows. Nicknamed “banana trout,” their bright yellow backs show up well in clear water.
Usually, rainbows are not far from them, so palominos also make good indicators of where trout lie even when you can’t see the other trout.
I had brought my rod along with a secret fly I’d planned to test but stayed too busy to fish. I offered it to my daughter and the report back was that my secret fly worked just fine.
Through the afternoon, the stream kept dropping and getting slightly clearer. We ended the day at a deep pool where palomino trout taunted us and big rainbows kept rising to keep us from quitting.
The temperatures continued to drop and the smoke from the fire pit behind us smelled encouraging. I had decided to stay as long as my grandson wanted to fish and he showed no signs of quitting.
But as they say, all good things must come to an end. We eventually moved to the fire pit, warmed our hands, and played back the best fish of the day.
There were plenty to talk about, their acrobatics often the highlight.
As Christmas presents go, this may have been one of my better ideas. Judging by the smiles and enthusiasm, the holiday season had kicked off in fine fashion. Thinking back on the fun I had watching and netting, I’m starting to think the present was actually for me. Perhaps the best presents are the ones you can share.
You might consider giving fish for Christmas yourself.
Jim Mize enjoys fish, even those on the lines of others. You can purchase Jim’s new book, The Jon Boat Years, at https://uscpress.com/The-Jon-Boat-Years or buy autographed copies at www.acreektricklesthroughit.com. Also here at www.riversandfeathers.com/books. Should you decide to fish at Fern Valley, you can book reservations at 770-597-4219 or go online to http://fernvalleytrout.com/25/index.php?page/Home.html. You can also read more about my earlier trip at https://riversandfeathers.com/fishing-like-its-christmas/.